Making the Most of a Thin Resume

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When you’re short on experience, play up your strengths.

The Problem

Recession or not, you’re job hunting. Trouble is, aside from some internships and a few part-time gigs, the work experience section of your resume is, well, thin. You know that you could nail a job if given the chance—but with the national unemployment rate hovering around 10%, how to get a foot in the door with so little to go on?

Curriculum Vitae

The Solution

A resume redo. The key is highlighting your accomplishments, regardless of how you got them. Definitely include when you graduated and whatever positions you’ve held since—employers want to see that. But, also list volunteer organizations, student clubs, sports teams, or any group in which you’ve held a leadership position or made an impact. Detail projects completed, funds raised or other positive outcomes; you want to point to anything that shows your capabilities, especially if it dovetails with requirements of the job you’re going after. And, here’s a tip from executive recruiters: Describe your efforts using keywords that mirror the language in an employer’s job listing, so they can connect the dots between your skills and their position. If you’re going after a marketing associate job, for example, outline the email marketing campaign you created for your campus bookstore that led to a 10% increase in sales.

One More Thing

No matter what type of job you’re going after, be sure to include in-demand skills such as foreign languages and computer know-how – we’re talking about spreadsheets and database programs, here, not Facebook. Of course, it’s all relative. If all you can say is, “Basic Microsoft Word,” then you might not want to highlight that that’s all you know.

If You’re the Do-It-Yourself Type

You’ll have no problem revamping your resume with the help of free templates from Microsoft, About.com or other online sources – some even have those all-important keywords built in. If you need a little coaching, have a professional resume service to do it for you – though you’ll pay for the convenience. Websites such as ResumeWriters.com or Monster.com charge anywhere from $100 to $300 for a finished product that you’ll get back in two to three days. Everyone has a different resume style preference, however, and we’ve spoken to executive recruiters who think that professional resume services create resumes that are too complicated and fluffy.

Before you part with any cash, do some digging. With so many people out of work, public libraries are holding free resume writing workshops, and universities have made resume and career counseling services available to recent grads and other alumni.

Good luck!

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